We continue our study in Ephesians by looking at how God saves sinners. This section of Ephesians is well known, particularly verse 8, as we remember God’s grace in saving sinful men and women. Let’s examine more of what God has for us in this great passage.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”–2:1-3
If you are not a Christian, the Bible is clear: You are spiritually dead. We cannot waste time and try to sugarcoat this tragic truth: Sin does not make us worse, and it is not a small dark blot on our otherwise stainless record….sin kills us. Sin separates us from God, leading to spiritual death. Before we come to know Christ, we have no way of knowing God, trusting God, or pleasing God.
The Bible is also clear on this: No one escapes this. Paul says we ALL once lived this way, not just the really bad humans, but every human. Here is the offense of God’s Word–it tells us what we really are, not what we’d like to believe we are.
There’s one more point to draw from this opening section: We are children of wrath outside of Christ. We are not children of God before we come to know Christ. That may step on some toes and upset some, but the Bible is clear: The only people who can rightly claim to be children of God are those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Being God’s child does not come naturally when we are born because, as stated above, our sin separates us from God. While we are all created by God, only those who know Christ are children of God.
Let’s summarize: Dead. Sinful. Separated from God. Children of wrath. Overall, this is a pretty negative picture of our spiritual state. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. There’s no way to fix it, not in and of ourselves. Dead people can’t do anything..they’re dead.
Which is why Paul’s next two words are the sweetest words in the Bible: But God. But God refused to let the story end here. God refused to let the Bible stop after Genesis 3. God acted to save His creation.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–2:4-9
Remember this, Christian–God loved you when you were dead! What great news for all! If you are a Christian, God loved you when you were dead (so He surely will continue to love you now)! If you are not a Christian, God loves you now! There is nothing we do to earn God’s love, He simply chooses to love the unlovable.
It is God who gives us spiritual life. Unable to trust Him on our own, or have a heart that desires to live with Him and for Him, He gives us a new heart, as He promised in Ezekiel 36. He opens our eyes and gives us life to turn from sin and self and turn to Christ.
Faith, then, is a gift from God too. I love this quote from the Gospel Transformation Bible: “Faith is not the ultimate good deed that saves us but the instrumental cause of our salvation–grace flows through the channel of faith, but the channel is itself of God’s construction.”
Thank God for the faith that saves, the faith we now have in Christ! This passage then destroys the idea that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is an ancient Greek idea, not a biblical idea. It stems from a stoicism that is divorced from biblical truth. Don’t buy it–our God does not help those who help themselves, our God raises the dead to life!
We also receive the “immeasurable riches of his grace” and are “seated with Christ.” We are not just forgiven and restored to God–He continues to shower us with grace and unites us with His Son–as we said last week, everything Jesus has, we have! What grace!
The point of all of this? To point us to rejoice in our God. Paul’s aim is that the church understands, knows, rejoices in, and praises God for all that He has done for them. What a word to help them do this.
We were dead; God made us alive.
We were blind; God made us see.
We did not trust God; God gave us faith.
We were condemned; God saved us.
We were slaves of Satan; God freed us to follow Him.
We were children of wrath; God adopts us as His children.
Meditate on this. Let the truth of God’s love and what He’s done for those who are in Christ lead you to worship Him and love others.
There’s one more verse we need to look at:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”–2:10
God does not save us by our work, but one of the reasons He saves us by grace is that we do good works from a renewed, godly heart. He has made us His. He has called us His children, and in light of that, He calls us to do good works for His glory.
Where do we start? We start in prayer. God has “prepared (them) beforehand.” He has called each believer to do good works–seek God’s will for your life, and how you can begin to serve Him.
Lord, may we never forget the grace found in you. May we remember what you’ve done for us, bringing us from death to life, from disobedience to obedience, from slaves to sons and daughters. May we worship you for your abundant love and grace. May we seek to do the good works you have prepared for us.